I’ve been a huge text adventure game fan since the early 1980′s. Yes, I made the adaptation to the high-end graphic games, but good graphics have never been a requirement for me; fun is the main component of a game. When I was a kid, I just ate up actual books that were interactive, such as Choose Your Own Adventure, Wizards, Warriors, & You, and Time Machine, among others. Later on interactive gamebooks (requiring dice) came on the market, mostly from the UK.
For me, at least, I loved the computer text adventures because I enjoyed reading and had an active imagination. I liked to crack puzzles. With the birth of Role Playing Games (RPG), the text adventures became a specialized niche market instead of the norm. The best mix of RPG and text adventure was Elfhelm’s Bane. I created a shrine for it.
Anyway, I just thought I’d like to give my thoughts on some Create Text Adventure Programs out there for anyone interested in making your own text adventure or interactive fiction:
SUDS: Located at sudslore.org, you could pretty much create Zork-like adventure games but with a cool graphic user interface to the player can easily perform actions without typing every command. You don’t need any programming experience, but creating advanced rooms and events takes a lot of training. SUDS was the first text maker program I used a couple of years ago. It’s generously given to us for free. The last update was in 2008, and the forums are occupied by around a dozen loyalists. The tutorial is in the help file, but the presentation is very 1997ish. SUDS is easy enough to create a mini-adventure, but it takes a lot of practice and redo’ing the lessons to pull off variables and switches (my weakness in RPG Maker VX). You do have the ability to insert pictures or sounds.
Conclusion: If you have no money, this is a great option, but be prepared to invest a lot of time testing and getting frustrated.
ADRIFT v 4.0 (adrift.org): Adrift is SUDS on steroids. Instead of just creating a Zork-like game, you can set-up a battle system (characters have hit points, strength, etc.) The user interface is more intuitive. The free version is pretty much juiced up and just has some caps on how big your adventure can be, and some saving permissions. The full version is $18.95. The forums are much more active and have more members than SUDS. The end result is that the games are more varied than SUDS, since you could create different systems. ADRIFT still has advanced variables and what not, but the manual is a well-written PDF, so it’s easy to practice. The compiler efficiently compresses your pictures and sounds better than SUDS if you choose to add them.
Conclusion: Highly recommend ADRIFT. Version 5 is in Alpha, and looks even better.
Inform 7: My jaw dropped with Inform 7. The target audience is teachers, students, and authors. The interface is outstanding- it’s like an electronic book. There is no coding necessary; the commands are actually in plain English, and part of the your story. If one can master Inform 7 you could easily create interactive fiction a la Choose Your Own Adventure or Time Machine. It’s 100% free and has a very active online community. It is much different that SUDS and ADRIFT because it’s not a straight “text adventure” creator, per se, it’s totally an interactive book with similar elements. Inform 7 is most popular platform in its interactive fiction niche.
Conclusion: Seems like the ultimate interactive fiction software. No coding or complicated variables here, however the interface is so different that ironically the learning curve may be tough for newbies.
Quest (located at axeuk.com/quest/): With a $39.95 price tag for Quest Pro, you’d think it have a super advantage over ADRIFT for creating text adventures. There are some bells and whistles, such as text to speech and on-screen commands, and the product for a running game does look cool, but I haven’t played with the free version that much to see if it truly is superior to ADRIFT. I can tell you this: when it comes to first impressions, ADRIFT won for me. Quest has an OK online community- sees like there are more games than people who play them, though.
Conclusion: With so many other free text adventure makers, it’s not worth buying Quest until you’ve demo’ed it and compared it to others.
TADS: If you know C and Java, you will LOVE TADS. TADS actually has the largest online community for text adventure games, due to the flexibility of the system. For civilians, however, the level of coding, debugging, HTML, and other advanced factors will be a huge turnoff. It is free.
Conclusion: If you can magically pull Python scripts from your wristband webshooters, TADS is for you. For everyone else, stick to the others.
Others: Hugo (took me a long to time find the page: generalcoffee.com/hugo/gethugo.html), ALAN (welcome.to/alan-if), and a bunch of others offer pretty much the same as the above interactive fictions programs I listed, with various levels of community involvement.